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The Government Says It’s Cracking Down on Robocalls

Robocalls, or scam calls, have been a persistent annoyance for years, even inspiring legislative action.

The U.S. Department of Justice asked a federal court to file temporary restraining orders against telecom carriers allegedly involved in hundreds of millions of fraudulent robocalls to Americans. 

The department said that the two civil cases involve carriers from New York and Arizona, which received warnings for serving as “gateways” for government-and business-imposter calls from overseas. The calls, which mostly originated in India, led to “massive financial losses” for senior and other vulnerable people across the U.S., according to the Justice Department.

The Department is calling the move to block companies and those who run them from carrying robocalls a “first-of-its-kind action.” The defendants include companies such as Ecommerce National, TollFreeDeals.com, Global Voicecom Inc., Global Telecommunication Services Inc., and KAT Telecom Inc., and multiple individuals.

The Department “will pursue to the fullest extent of the law individuals in the United States who knowingly facilitate imposter fraud calls, using both criminal and civil tools where appropriate,” Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt for the Department of Justice’s Civil Division said in a statement

According to the Department, robocall recipients receive disturbing messages, such as that their social security number or other personal information has been compromised; that they face imminent arrest; that their assets are being frozen; their bank or credit accounts have suspicious activity; their benefits are being stopped. Other alarming messages warn of imminent deportation, or a combination of these false threats.

In the cases that the Department is investigating, the U.S. alleges that the defendants used internet connection rather than traditional phone lines for calls initiated from outside the country.

Robocalls have been surging for years and even inspired legislation. In late 2019, President Donald Trump signed legislation designed to stop illegal robocalls and better protect consumers. Under the TRACED Act, consumers should be able to identify robocalls so they can avoid answering them.